The process of the sacrifice that Fu Zhiyu was in charge of was indeed not difficult. Just like Yuan Lu said, it was just about three sticks of incense, but the clothes for the sacrifice were really difficult to wear.
The outfit was very complicated. The last time this dress was used was six years ago. The last governor of Jiangnan was much fatter than Fu Zhiyu, so the outfit was adjusted by the embroiderer with great care, but as a result, it turned out to be even more complicated, with layer after layer of cloth. The crown was also heavy, as if made to break a person’s neck.
It took Fu Zhiyu a long time to put on these many things. Although there were many layers of ritual clothes, because most of them were made of silk and satin, he didn’t feel cumbersome after putting them on. Once the belt was wrapped, his waist looked even thinner.
“…strangled me to death,” Fu Zhiyu took a breath, and couldn’t help complaining to his mother, “It’s troublesome, I’m tired before I even go out.”
“Well, it’s always like this,” Yuan Wanyun would also attend today, and she has also dressed up a little bit. “You have agreed. Since you can’t go back, just endure it today.”
The ritual costume was in gold and red, and after putting on the golden crown, Fu Zhiyu looked in the mirror, and the more he looked at it, the stranger it became.
“It’s like a wedding dress,” he muttered, “It’s weird.”
“Don’t talk nonsense,” Yuan Wanyun looked at him, and then urged, “Hurry up, hurry up, it’s time to go.”
The governor of Luanzhou had said that he would be welcomed to the temple by the crowd, but he hadn’t gone into details either. The picture Fu Zhiyu imagined at first was relatively simple, just riding down the road on his own horse, but what he didn’t expect was that there would be a special sedan chair.
The sedan chair was carried by sixteen people, had carved beams and painted pillars and was very beautiful. This sedan chair had only the lower half and no top. Fu Zhiyu’s neck was sore from the crown of his head, and he only felt that he would definitely have neck pain when he got up tomorrow morning.
…Sure enough, there was no benefit in being the King of Jiangnan.
He sat on the sedan chair, only to feel that his sore neck attracted all his attention. He couldn’t make any movements in front of the people, so he could only sit upright and endure.
When will this be finished, Fu Zhiyu thought absent-mindedly.
As for the eyes of the people on the street, he didn’t care too much. Fu Zhiyu had been used to being watched since he was a child, and he accepted things like onlookers calmly.
But where have people ever seen such a person?
The governor of Jiangnan, who was in charge of the great sacrifice before, was fat. Wrapped in this golden and red costume, he looked like a ball. Wearing the complicated crown, he looked very auspicious, like a very festive person in the New Year painting. After seeing him like this for a long time, it seemed that this image was natural.
But with a different person, the impression suddenly changed.
Fu Zhiyu said that this sacrificial costume looked like a wedding dress. In fact, it made sense. It turned out that the sacrificial person used to be a woman, and her identity was as a bride dedicated to the land god or the river god. In some places, the “bride” would be killed in the sacrifice before being sent to the god. This bad habit was changed long ago. The sacrificial activities were retained, but the poor woman was replaced by a person in a high position, and the act of sending the bride became a prayer to the sky for blessings. No girl died as a result of this event, which was also a good thing.
Although the costume had been modified, it still retained the shadow of the bride’s attire.
The young man on the sedan chair was engulfed in this gorgeous colour, and the golden beads on the crown on his head trembled. After all, he was a man, and there was no makeup. It was just that the red lotus pattern was painted on his forehead, which made his face even more beautiful and unique, making people afraid to look at him directly.
Fu Zhiyu never dressed up when he went out, every time just donning a piece of clothes casually. He had never shown the gorgeous and compelling appearance that he had today, accentuating the beauty of his face.
The crowd was noisy, and people were saying many things.
“Is this Wang Zhao?”
“He looks like this… is he a fairy?”
“No wonder when I was in the capital before, I heard that Wang Zhao’s appearance was unparalleled in the world. Now that I look at it, it is really unique.”
Because it was too noisy, Fu Zhiyu really didn’t hear it clearly, and he didn’t pay much attention to the overly insistent gazes. The sun was hot today, and it was noon. The sedan chair was inlaid with a large piece of glass, and with the precious stones he was wearing, the sedan chair flashed again and again, hurting his eyes, the reflection making Fu Zhiyu unable to see the situation clearly.
He was tired; it was hard to be an official.
At this time, a dark cloud covered the sun, and Fu Zhiyu blinked, only to feel as if he had just seen a familiar person in the crowd.
He turned his head and glanced, and the golden crown swayed with his movement, but the street was full of people on both sides, men, women and children with many different faces looking at him, and it was impossible to tell who was who, and there seemed to be nothing unusual.
Fortunately, this section of the road was not long; it was no more than a formality. The ritual was set in Baima Temple outside the city, and there were a lot of people underneath. Fu Zhiyu slowly walked up the steps according to the previous setting. When he walked, the robe he wore dragged on the ground after him for a long time, naturally making him the most watched person in this place.
When he reached the top, Fu Zhiyu saluted the abbot in accordance with the ritual.
On the highest stage, with everyone looking up to it, Wang Zhao stood out even more from the group of monks worshipping the Buddha.
He didn’t look like a worshipper of the gods, he looked like a god.
The people who could participate in this kind of ceremony were not mediocre. They were all prominent figures in Jiangnan. Although they were under Fu Zhiyu’s command, most of them had never seen what this King of Jiangnan looked like.
Who could say how many people clenched their fists inside their sleeves and looked at the man on the stage with inscrutable eyes, with some unknown thoughts in their minds.
According to the rules discussed before, the abbot would recite three paragraphs. Fu Zhiyu didn’t understand the language he used, and his speech speed was very fast.
The governor of Luanzhou explained to him before that these were the questions to God. One was to ask whether God would bless the weather and give the abundant harvest; the second was to ask whether God would bless the country and the people to live and work in peace; and the third was to ask whether God would bless all families with happiness without disease and disaster. Every time the abbot asked, he stopped for a while. Then Fu Zhiyu had to take a stick of incense and offer it to the statue, and it was regarded as God’s answer.
It was really not difficult. The three sticks of incense that Fu Zhiyu got in his hand had already been lit. He just had to insert them one by one according to the rhythm into the incense burner in front of him.
But with the first incense, Fu Zhiyu realised that there was a problem.
There was something wrong with the incense burner. Usually the incense burner was filled with incense ashes, and during rituals like this, the incense ashes would be made solid so that the incense sticks would be stable. But this one was different, the incense was soft inside when the stick was inserted, the kind of soft that didn’t hold the stick at all.
This couldn’t have been an accident, it was deliberate.
This was a special incense for sacrifice. It was thicker and heavier than the usual incense. If it were an ordinary person, after he inserted the incense in this way, the incense stick would fall immediately.
The falling of the incense stick was very unlucky and meant that the gods were not willing to bless everyone.
The governor of Jiangnan had done it for so many years before, and he had never had a problem. Now that he was replaced by Fu Zhiyu, the incense fell. It was easy to imagine what the people of Jiangnan would think.
He would be talked about by the people to the point where he couldn’t control it. If something happened to Jiangnan, he would definitely be the one to blame. Everyone would say that the King of Jiangnan was not recognised by the gods and caused the disaster. It was unknown whether anyone would use this public opinion to do something at that time.
Only now did Fu Zhiyu feel that this was a trap. Others had arranged it and waited for him to fall into it. He was the only one foolishly praying for blessings.
Was this a belated show of strength, or after observing for so long, did they finally feel that he was easy to bully?
Fu Zhiyu’s mind turned a few rounds, and he paused at the incense burner for a while. His fingers holding the incense also stopped there and remained still.
The abbot was a little confused, and asked in a low voice: “Wang Zhao, what are you doing?”
But Fu Zhiyu slowly and steadily pressed the incense down, and then motioned to the abbot to continue.
The abbot felt that the incense seemed to be a bit shorter, but fortunately, it was fine, and this moment wasn’t too long. He breathed a sigh of relief and recited the next words.
What happened next went very smoothly, and after the worship was over, the three long incense sticks stood firmly in the incense burner and hadn’t burned out until the feast was over.
After Fu Zhiyu got off the high platform, he hurriedly took off the annoying ornaments and moved his stiff neck, letting out a sigh of relief.
He changed into lighter clothes, but the lotus pattern on his forehead, whatever it was painted with, couldn’t be wiped off.
“What was wrong with Master up there?” Yuan Mingdao was behind him, and he knew something had happened, “Was there a problem with that incense?”
Yuan Wanyun was also watching from below, and she obviously felt something was not right. Now she was looking at Fu Zhiyu worriedly.
“En,” Fu Zhiyu nodded and said, “It is fine, it was solved.”
After he finished speaking, he thought for a while, shook his head to himself, and sneered: “No, look at this, it’s just the beginning.”
He told the two of them what happened on the platform and said, “It’s just that the incense burner must have been broken by me. I’ll pay for it to Baima Temple in the future.”
Vigorously performing a miracle, he stuck the incense sticks into the bottom of the copper incense burner. Stuck in three holes in the bottom of the incense burner, the incense sticks were of course stable.
But such a thing must have been aimed at Fu Zhiyu. If he didn’t have this strength, things could easily get big. He was the King of Jiangnan. The people didn’t accept him at first. After all, everyone was afraid of change. But there seemed to be no change in the past three years. Everyone had somewhat accepted his existence, and Fu Zhiyu was very low-key. Most of the time, people couldn’t feel his existence, even though, by definition, he was the master of the entire Jiangnan.
If the incense had really fallen, Fu Zhiyu’s reputation wouldn’t have been so good, and there would have been plenty of excuses for people to start trouble.
The person who did this could be described as having malicious intentions towards him, and the thoughts they held towards him were also very vicious.
The fact was Fu Zhiyu really couldn’t tell who was targeting him; he just felt that anyone could target him.
“I won’t go to the banquet tonight. Mingdao, help me avoid it,” Fu Zhiyu said. He sighed. “I’m not in the mood anymore. I want to go back to my house.”
He was asked to return the clothes and crown to the Luanzhou government. These two complicated things made him physically tired, but the events on the platform made him even more tired in his heart.
He originally thought that Jiangnan was a pure land, so he lived a happy, carefree life for three years. But he still had to feel, with the benefit of hindsight, that where there were people there was strife, and he couldn’t avoid it wherever he went.
The timely appearance of Deng Jinghe and the accident during the sacrifice were both a clear reminder of this.